Monday, April 28, 2008



So whose side is HRC on, anyway?

In the gay political universe HRC doesn't only stand for the candidate working with John McCain to tear down the Democrat McCain will face in November. It also stands for something far more loathsome and treacherous than Hillary, the Human Rights Campaign. HRC is an Inside the Beltway kiss ass advocacy group for gay people. I was very proud in 1997 when they gave me a Leadership Equality Award for my work at fostering equality in the workplace at Warner Brothers. I even wrote them into my will.

But what opened my eyes to what HRC has become was their endorsement of Holy Joe Lieberman over Ned Lamont. After I learned more about them I smashed my award and removed them from my will. HRC is one of those Inside the Beltway organizations that has long ago lost sight of its original mandate. Instead of fighting for gay equality, they fight to win DC status games and to enhance the future career prospects of the staff. When it comes to electoral politics, you can almost always expect the worst from HRC.

This past February their in house magazine prominently featured Republican rubber stamp and fake moderate Susan Collins (R-ME), including a 2 page spread giving the false impression that Collins is not the enemy of gay people. One of the more outrageous parts of their interview with Collins is a bit about the Gang of 14. They make it sound like her membership in it should be praised, but that’s pretty naive considering that one of the only accomplishments of the Gang was to ensure the confirmation of viciously homophobic, right-wing crazies on the federal bench like Janice Rogers Brown, Priscilla Owen, and Bill Pryor. But that's exactly what HRC has turned into-- an organization so concerned with looking "mainstream" and "adult" Inside the Beltway, that they will support the worst enemies of gay people on the political scene.

Today HRC announced its endorsements for Senate races around the country. They are asking the gay community to donate money to 10 cash-rich incumbents and four Democratic challengers, Jeanne Shaheen (DLC-NH), Mark Udall (D-CO), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Al Franken (D-MN). Among the incumbents is Collins, of course, who is running against a Democratic congressman, Tom Allen, who's voting record on gay issues is excellent and who is a true friend of the gay community and someone who, again, unlike Collins, will never ever, vote to confirm rabid homophobic judges. Among the other incumbents they endorsed are some outstanding senators like Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), John Kerry (D-MA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), and Jack Reed (D-RI) and at least one with a spotty voting record, Louisiana's conservative Democrat, Mary Landrieu, who, like Collins, routinely rubber stamps homophobic judges the Bush Regime pushes for lifetime appointments.

This morning I called Tom Allen and asked if I missing something about why HRC has endorsed Collins. Tom, the most positive campaigner I've ever met, never wants to say a negative word about anyone. Instead he wanted to talk about his own record on his support for gay people. “My record of fighting discrimination on all levels and for standing up for equality is consistent. When I was on the Portland City Council in Maine, we led the state in nondiscrimination practices by banning bias based on sexual orientation for housing, credit and employment. As a Member of Congress, I have consistently supported fairness and equality measures while opposing discrimination. As a member of the Senate, I will continue to do what is right for all people. Specifically, I will not support judicial nominees who don’t understand fairness and equal rights.” It would have been nice if HRC could have at least wrung something like that out of Collins before sending a confusing signal to gays and lesbians in Maine.

HRC's own scorecard for the 109th Congress-- the 110th isn't out yet-- gave Tom Allen a 100% rating and gave Collins a 78% although that rating doesn't reflect her votes and maneuvering for anti-gay judges. (She voted for both Alito and Roberts). None the less, aside from fundraising against Tom on her behalf, they claim they are also doing "on-the-ground organizing [and] GOTV efforts" on behalf of Collins and pushing her at gay pride events.

But it was a Senate race they chose to ignore that is the most shocking and disappointing element of their announcement today. North Carolina has two extreme right wing senators, Elizabeth Dole and Richard Burr, each of whom can always be counted on to do whatever they can to make the lives of gay men and women less palatable and less safe. One, Elizabeth Dole, is up for re-election in November. There are two Democrats in a neck and neck primary battle to take her on, Republican-lite Establishment-backed Kay Hagan and grassroots progressive Jim Neal. Frankly, I don't know where Hagan stands on gay issues. I do know where Neal stands-- 100% with the gay community, of which he is an upfront member. Yes, one of the first times that an uncloseted gay man is running for the U.S. Senate-- in a race he can win-- and HRC is... abstaining. When we reached Jim this morning, he seemed disappointed. "There's no question their endorsement would have helped in fundraising and I certainly would have liked to have had it. People look to the HRC to encourage participation and promote change in the political system. Is it doing that? That's a valid question, and after this election is over, I think we need to look at groups like HRC and their endorsement process." Amen!

Tom Allen and Jim Neal have both been endorsed by Blue America. If you're a member of HRC how about skipping your HRC dues this year and sending the money to where it will do some good instead? Like here, for Tom and Jim. By the way, the first five donations today of at least $30 get, as a thank you, an autographed copy of Al Franken's book The Truth.


Pam pointed out this afternoon that Jim Neal is very clear on where he stands on gay issues. Kay Hagan? Not so much.
Even when I saw Hagan's communications coordinator Colleen Flanagan in person at the BlueNC blogger gathering yesterday (many pro-LGBT candidates were there, including Jim Neal), she didn't say when or if Hagan would issue any positions on:

1. Federal hate crimes legislation.
2. Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).
3. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal
4. The Uniting American Families Act (H.R. 2221, S. 1328)
5. The federal Defense of Marriage Act
6. Whether her view that the definition of marriage should be left up to state law can be reconciled with 1967's Loving v. Virginia, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that invalidated state bans on interracial marriages and whether that should have been left a state matter.

This is basic stuff. Sen. Hagan has in fact sponsored anti-discrimination measures at the state level, but for whatever reason, she can't manage the gumption to state her positions on the above for publication. A simple "Yes" or "No" would have been clear. Follow up questions to the campaign were not only not answered, but not acknowledged in any way, as I said above.

If HRC is looking at who would be the best candidate on our issues, we already have a non-responsive fossil sitting in that seat right now-- Elizabeth Dole. No matter what you think of Jim Neal, he has been both responsive and clear on our issues, and Kay Hagan has been MIA.

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At 3:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This reads like the rant of someone who doesn't begin to understand politics. A few observations:

1) HRC loses credibility with elected officials if it does not support those that vote the way it wants them to, particularly if that vote is in some way tough for that member of congress. Susan Collins does herself no favors in her caucus when she votes against her leadership and sides with HRC, and if HRC was to turn its back on her now then it would lose the few Republican votes it can get on close issues, and that would be a signal to all politicians that the organization is amateurish and unreliable.

2) Does it occur to anyone in the blog world that Jim Neal may not be a good candidate? There must be some reason he isn't supported by the national gay groups, by big donors, by the DNC and the DSCC, all of whom I'm sure has met with him and talked with his campaign. Do you really think it's some big anti-gay conspiracy? Or could it be that he's just not that great up close?

At 3:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Qow, looks like (insert smarmy self-important GOP congressman's and/or HRC's Communications Director's name here) found Howie's blog.

Too bad they didn't have the balls to sign their name... It probably would shed a ton of sunshine into their political agenda.

PS: Howie - "doesn't begin to understand politics"? That alone shows how stupid this poster really is.

At 6:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "anonymous" comment reeks of someone who doesn't understand politics...
HRC is known by the glbt staffers on capital hill (you know, a virtual goldmine of access to members in both houses and both parties) as the advocacy group you can always expect to see showing up to lobby Barney Frank, Tammy Balwin and all of our friends when issues important to the advancement of equal rights for us come up but are (AMAZINGLY) absent from lobbying anyone else...I guess it's too much to ask to expect a gay-rights advocacy group to lobby potential supporters as well. Poor misunderstood...

Give to Victory Fund and SLDN and tell HRC where they can shove it!

At 10:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Collins has every political reason to vote to support gay rights some of the time, HRC or no HRC. HRC on the other hand could use Roberts and Alito as a deal breaker. She's a senator from a state where she will surely lose if she comes across as a typical Republican. HRC's endorsement is just one small step away from a senate in which LGBT rights can be defended. It certifies her as a non-crazy typical Republican. She needs HRC a lot more than HRC or the rest of us need her.

At 1:24 PM, Blogger Pravduh said...

Howie, thank you for your excellent analysis and pertinent vote information. If only HRC had 1/1,000th of your knowledge and strategic insight.

I am disgusted almost beyond words. That Mr. Smith dismisses Michelangelo with the same right wing talking points we hear constantly from the media is cold comfort.

I have contacted HRC and have tried to reach David Smith or his manager to try to understand how these endorsements were reached. To date, I have had no luck but I do hold out hope for an update.

HRC is not acting in our best interests as Gay-Americans and how David Smith can rationalize this behavior is just bizarre.

To anonymous - Hi Susan. Or David.

PS Howie Klein is a nationally known gay activist, also very well known in the left blogosphere. David Smith? Not so much. Now we see why.

At 11:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maurce Maxwell, gay movie producer- the HRC thinks they are playing hardball, but all they are doing is ego betterment. They are over paid, under worked and spend a lot of our money going to parties of giving them. I just return from a trip to North Africa looking for locations to shoot a new movie on how gay and lesbians are treated in Arab countries.I called HRC for help and they said they only work on problem in the USA. That is very short sighted, since gay & lesbians are being jail and killed everydayin the Arab world. Money given could be better spent if sent International gay rights org.


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